Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (412–444), is best known as a protagonist in the Christological controversy of the second quarter of the fifth century. Readers may be surprised therefore to find such polemic absent from this early work on the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament. Another possibly unexpected feature of this Alexandrian commentary is its focus on historical exegesis, which reveals Cyril’s serious interest in the fortunes of the people of Israel and Judah in the centuries preceding and following the exile. Unlike his predecessor Didymus the Blind, Cyril abjures an approach that dismisses the historicity of the text (as in his opening defense of Hosea’s marriage), and he proceeds to other levels of interpretation, moral and spiritual, only after a preliminary examination of the historical.
Indebted to the diverse approaches of Didymus, Jerome, and Theodore, Cyril appears in this work as a balanced commentator, eclectic in his attitude and tolerant of alternative views. Although he displays an occasional uncertainty in his grasp of historical and geographical details, as well as an inclination to verbosity, Cyril has conspicuously influenced the exegesis of his younger contemporary Theodoret of Cyrus, and has made a vital contribution to the development of biblical interpretation in the church.
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Cyril of Alexandria was the Patriarch of Alexandria from 412 to 444. His uncle, Pope Theophilus of Alexandria, was Patriarch of Alexandria from 385 to 412. Cyril was well educated, wrote extensively, and was a leading figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431, the third ecumenical council of the early Christian Church. The council convened amid disputes over the teachings of Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Cyril led the charges of heresy against Nestorius. Nestorius’ teachings were condemned by the council, leading to the formation of separate denominations that broke from the Orthodox Church.
Cyril of Alexandria is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Church, and Lutheran Church.